Jan. 15, 2010
Curtis Stands Three Points Shy of 1,000
By Bryan Boettcher, Director of Athletic Media Relations and Sports Information
Gabby Curtis didn't expect to join such a young team after playing two seasons at Cowley County Community College, but she's thrived in her role as one of two upperclassmen on the Northwest Missouri State women's basketball team. She's started every game, ranks second on the team in points, rebounds and assists, and with more than two steals per game has emerged as one of the top defenders in the MIAA.
Curtis expects to join the 1,000-point club Saturday and if she scores three points she'll have done so in 79 collegiate games. After averaging 12.5 points in both seasons at Cowley County, she's boosted her output to 14 points against admittedly stiffer competition. That includes a career-high 27 points scored in a win against Nebraska-Omaha in mid-December.
What makes Curtis unique from most college basketball players is where she learned the game. While many remember growing up bouncing a ball on a paved driveway outside their house, Curtis found a love for the game playing on dirt and sand while growing up on a Navajo Indian reservation in Ganado, Ariz. Some neighborhood games were even halted when a ball rolled into a nearby cactus.
"It was fun growing up on a reservation," said Curtis. "There's a little more than 2,000 people in Ganado and everybody knows everybody. It's like one big family."
Curtis was a four-year varsity letterwinner for the hometown Hornets and won the Class 3A state championship as a senior in 2007. That same year she was voted first-team all-state, named Small School Player of the Year and was a nominee for McDonald's All-America team.
"The Navajo people are all about sports and specifically basketball," said Curtis. "They support you on the court, they'll be at all your games and the crowds are wild. There were big crowds everywhere we went."
Curtis spent the summer between her junior and senior years playing for Elite Eight - an AAU team from Phoenix. Her coach, Kenny Drake, even placed weekly practices on Friday, Saturday and Sunday so Curtis and her mom, Mildred, could make the four-hour drive from Ganado to be with the team.
"I don't know how Coach Drake learned of me, but I had a lot of fun that summer with the team," said Curtis. "We traveled all-around and even up to Washington and Oregon. Kayla Pedersen, who competes for Stanford now, was on our team and it was an honor playing with her."
Coach Drake helped put Curtis in contact with Cowley County head coach Todd Clark, who gave Curtis a chance to continue her basketball career.
"None of the native Americans back home had ever traveled out-of-state to play collegiate basketball," said Curtis. "The few that did went to Phoenix, but none had really left.
"My mom is an explorer. She likes going places, meeting new people and she wanted that for me. It was hard saying goodbye, but I had gotten used to being away when I played AAU ball. I think that helped me get out of my shell because I was kind of shy."
Curtis starred in her two seasons at Cowley County and finished as the program's 10th all-time leading scorer. She liked the small town and enjoyed the time spent with her teammates. It also helped that the class rooms were right next to the dorms.
"I liked waking up at 8:55 for a 9 o'clock class," Curtis joked.
When Curtis moved to Arkansas City, her mom and two younger siblings made the move to Manhattan, Kan. - just three hours from Cowley County. Her stepdad, Chris, had grown up in Manhattan and it was an easy transition for the family since they had spent numerous holidays there before.
Coach Clark contacted Northwest head coach Gene Steinmeyer and Bearcat assistant coach Lori Hopkins stopped in on one of Curtis' games during a tournament in Wichita, Kan., last season. The two sides kept in contact through text messages and after the season Curtis made a visit to Maryville - another three-hour drive from Manhattan.
"I thought more girls would be older, but we really do have a young team," said Curtis. "The girls are great and we try to hang out whenever we can. We're going to be a pretty good team these next few years."
Curtis and fellow junior Gentry Deitz are the veterans. There are no seniors.
Nearing the midway point of the conference slate, the Bearcats find themselves even in MIAA play at 4-4 and in a tie for fifth place in the conference standings. Northwest is the only team to beat Emporia State (14-1) this season and is coming off the program's first win in Warrensburg since 2004. Curtis has scored in double figures in 12 of the team's 15 games.
As for the 1,000-point milestone, Curtis wouldn't have known if it wasn't for her mom, who told her she was close to the mark last week.
"I was shocked when I first heard about it," said Curtis. "I don't know how that's happened."
Curtis is majoring in physical education and someday hopes to return to Ganado to coach her hometown Hornets.
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
firstname.lastname@example.org | 660.562.1118 | Fax: 660.562.1582
Lamkin Activity Center | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468